The Willow Ptarmigan belongs to the Grouse subfamily and is commonly referred to as the Willow Grouse. It's actually quite a large bird that looks a lot like a chicken. It weighs about 15 to 28 ounces and has an average length of between 13 and 17 inches. It has a relatively short tail that is rounded and black in color.
In terms of color, the males and females are a bit different. In summer, the male has a brownish color with a reddish hue around the neck and breast and has white wings and white under parts while the female, though being somewhat similar, has brown feathers all over her body. Both sexes however, become completely white in the winter. The only color that is maintained throughout the seasons is the color of the tail, which is black.
These ptarmigans love areas that are heavily vegetated with plants such as shrubs, herbs and grasses. They like vegetation that does not grow above sea level and will often reside in areas scattered with willow, birch trees and other such vegetation. Most of this vegetation plays a crucial role in the diet of the ptarmigan as they prove to be vital food sources in the winter and fall months.
They can be found in in the moorlands of Scotland, Alaska and Northern Canada, along with several regions of Asia and Europe.
This Ptarmigan primarily eats mosses and lichens but will also eat flowers and insects during summer months. In the winter, they eat twigs and buds from various plants and will also eat berries whenever available.
As expected, males and females come together during the breeding season. But what is notable is that they stay together during the season as well; raising the young together. Males will tend to defend a selected territory while the females sit on a well camouflaged nest. This nest is normally a shallow hole in the ground that is often lined with grass to help conceal it. Males will also help to brood and defend the eggs from predators.
These Ptarmigans always have to be on the lookout for predators as an unaware ptarmigan can make very easy prey. Some of their common predators include the snowy owl, grey falcon and the Artic fox. These animals are very skilled and accurate when capturing prey but the ptarmigan has developed some techniques to counteract this. These techniques include flying into banks where nests might be located instead of walking. This prevents a trail from being formed.
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